"I believe, help my unbelief." Jesus has come down from the mountaintop where Peter, James, and John experienced his transfiguration, where we are invited to listen to the Beloved. He then tells us about the suffering Messiah who will meet contempt and encounter people who do whatever they want. After this discussion, Jesus came upon the rest of the twelve, who are with a crowd. The crowd sees Jesus and come up to him greeting him. He asks them what they been arguing about. A man tells of bringing his son to Jesus because his son is struck by seizures that dash him down where he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth. The father then says I asked your disciples to heal him, but they were unable to heal him.
The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 43When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ Someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.’ He answered them, ‘You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’ And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You spirit that keep this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!’ After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’ Mark 9:14-29
"I believe, help my unbelief." Jesus, is disappointed in the faith of the disciples and the crowd. He asks How long. How long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? How long? The boy is brought to Jesus the evil inside the boy caused him to fall down, convulse, roll and foam. Jesus asked the father, to tell him when he got ill. The father shares his story, his son's story. He tells of the years when the evil has cast his son into fire and water to destroy him. He shares his pain and says, "If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us."
"I believe, help my unbelief." Jesus, who is still struggling with the lack of faith and belief of his closest followers, says, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes." The father cries out with tears, "I believe, help my unbelief." Jesus saw the crowds come running and rebuked the evil and commanded it to come out of the boy. The evil did not leave easily. The boy has a last seizure and then becomes still as death. The crowd believed the boy was dead, but Jesus took his hand and lifted him up to life.
"I believe, help my unbelief." The twelve ask why. Why couldn't we heal the boy? Jesus says that "this kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting."
"I believe, help my unbelief." At this point in our journey with Jesus, we are invited to stop and struggle with our belief and unbelief. Because there are those among us who have prayed daily, hourly, minute by minute for the healing of our loved one, only to have them succumb to the illness. We lose our faith in God, who didn't answer our prayer for healing. We lose faith is God who seems silent or absent from us. At those moment and in those times of doubt, we cry, "I believe, help my unbelief."
I believe, help my unbelief. No matter how far away from you I have traveled, no matter how dark life looks right now, no matter how lost and alone I feel, remind me, I can always start over, begin again, believe once more. Amen
Suzanne by Leonard Cohen